Are we getting overloaded with information?

I’m wondering if the world has gotten too complex for most of us to understand. Perhaps the speed, intensity and sheer volume of the information coming at us now is so great that it is beyond our ability to create a narrative and make sense out of it.

It seems to me our level of discourse is suffering because of it. We use oversimplified terms for complex ideas; like using the word Socialism to describe the process of providing more government services to folks who don’t currently have them. It’s a complex issue with social, political and economic ramifications, and it cuts to the bone of who and what we want to be as nation. But calling it socialism, and thus implying it is inherently evil doesn’t help us to understand the complexity and nuance of what we are considering.

A recent piece on NPR noted that in the late 19th and early 20th centuries it was fairly easy for regular folks to understand what was happening in science. (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=120751039 )Now, the sheer volume and complexity of the information makes it impossible for most of us to understand. For example, I have a vague notion of what happens inside my computer, but really have no in depth or working knowledge of it. I bet most computer users are in the same boat.

This musing was prompted by a meeting I attended several weeks ago. The presenters were trying to show us what the potentials were for growth in some of our state retirement funds. I came away from the meeting wondering if there were simply too many variables to control, and that the nature of the financial instruments and the vagaries of “the market” were such that any sort of accuracy was beyond our reach.

Has the same thing happened in education, health care, finance and other venues – is there now simply too much information and complexity for the average person to make any sense of?

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